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SERAP Asks Lawan, Gbajabiamila To Publish Reports On Corruption Probes, Seeks Special Counsel Bill

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, urging them to use their “good offices and leadership positions to urgently publish all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999.”

The organization also urged them to “disclose the number and details of public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly that have resulted in any indictment of suspects, and to name such suspects. The reports should be sent to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to consider if there is sufficient admissible evidence to pursue prosecution.”

In the FoI requests dated 25 July, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Publishing the reports of hearings and probes would bolster public trust and confidence in the oversight functions, and dispel the perception that many of these hearings and probes are politically motivated and serve personal interest, rather than the general public interests.”

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SERAP said: “The most effective way to deter corruption is to make the cost of engaging in these types of acts higher than the rewards. This end can only be accomplished by making public the reports and pursuing public accountability for corrupt acts. Doing so would also give Nigerians greater confidence that their lawmakers can use their constitutional oversight functions to address corruption in Nigeria.”

The FoI requests, read in part: “We urge you to sponsor a resolution to stop lawmakers from directly getting involved in the execution of projects by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure the proper and effective exercise of oversight functions, including investigations of corruption allegations, such as those involving the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).”

“We also urge you to urgently use the opportunity of the ongoing public hearings and corruption probes to influence Nigeria’s anti-corruption agenda, including by immediately amending section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act on independent counsel for corruption.”

“Section 52 requires the Chief Justice of Nigeria to authorise an independent counsel to investigate any allegation of corruption against high level public officials, and to report his/her findings to the National Assembly or appropriate house of assembly.”

“The proposed amendment should include additional requirements beyond merely reporting to lawmakers, that would allow the independent counsel to use the findings of any investigation as a basis to pursue effective prosecution of corruption cases without any authorisation by the executive or the National Assembly.”

“SERAP notes that both the Senate and House of Representatives have over the years conducted several public hearings and corruption probes to expose pervasive problem of corruption in MDAs.”

“SERAP is concerned about the systemic and widespread corruption allegations in MDAs and among high-ranking public officials, and the negative impacts on socio-economic development, as well as access of Nigerians to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water and regular electricity supply.”

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of the FoI requests. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our requests.”

“The exercise of oversight functions and powers by the National Assembly to conduct public hearings and corruption probes in MDAs should be regarded as a public trust.”

“The National Assembly has a unique opportunity to enhance transparency and accountability, as well as the integrity of its oversight functions on corruption matters in particular, and other constitutional roles, in general, including by publishing widely the reports of all corruption-related public hearings since 1999.”

“There is legitimate public interest in the publication of the reports of these public hearings and probes. The public hearings and probes can only serve as effective mechanisms to prevent and combat corruption if their reports are widely published.”

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on reports of all public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since 1999.”

“By Section 4 (a) of the FoI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”

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Nigeria Immigration Service Places Embargo on Capturing, Issuance of Passports

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The Nigeria Immigration Service has placed an embargo on capturing and issuance of passports to applicants from today May 18th till the end of May 2021.

The Comptroller General of Immigration, Muhammed Babandede made the announcement on Tuesday during a press briefing in Abuja.

He said the decision is to enable the service to clear its backlog, noting that it will no longer collect fresh applications until the backlogs are cleared.

This means that all passports in control offices are closed for applicants from today till May 31st and payments for passports will be online when the portal is opened which will be June.

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola had earlier given a six weeks timeline for passport collection.

He said this will be six weeks which is meant to allow for enough time to investigate, verify and validate personal information supplied by the applicants.

“What we are driving at is the peace of mind that comes from the assurance of certainty. If there are circumstances that will make the date to change, it will be communicated to the applicant one week before the collection date”.

He noted that applicants will have no basis for further communication with officers, other than to complete their application process and leave the venue. The date for the collection of their passports or any challenge to the application will be communicated to them.

“The technology for the efficient running of this system has been acquired and will be deployed.

“We are publishing on our website the list of the backlog of passports that are ready which are yet to be collected by the owners. They will be required to go to the state commands to collect them.

“With these changes, it is my firm belief that we will arrive at a new dawn in passport application processing”, the minister added.

Below is the breakdown of the current backlog

Local: 71, 644

Enhanced: 46,814

Foreign : 17,906

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NLC President Dares El-Rufai, Leads Protesters to Kaduna Govt House

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The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, is currently leading union members to the Kaduna State Government House.

This is after Governor Nasir El-Rufai declared the labour leader and others wanted for “economic sabotage” and attack on public infrastructure.

Large crowd, led by Wabba, is marching through Waff road in Kaduna and heading towards the government house.

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Gov Obiano Imposes Curfew on 2 Warring Anambra Communities

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Gov. Willie Obiano has imposed a 7am to 6am curfew on Omor and Anaku communities in Ayamelum Local Government Area of the state.

This is contained in a statement issued by Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, Secretary to the State Government.

The state government said the curfew is untill further notice.

”The curfew begins on Monday. Residents of the two communities should obey the order as security personnel are on strict orders to enforce the curfew directives.

”The government has lifted the curfew imposed on Igbariam, Aguleri, Umueri, Nteje, Awkuzu and Umunya communities on April 26, following the return of normalcy in the areas,” the government said.

It was reported that on Sunday, a violent clash broke out between residents of Anaku and Omor Communities.

The police says three persons have been confirmed dead in a clash between Omor and Anaku communities in Anyamelum Local Government Area of the state.

DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, Police Public Relations Officer in Anambra, told NAN in Awka on Sunday that normalcy has since been restored in the area.

Ikenga said that Mr Chris Owolabi, Commissioner of Police in the state, personally led a team of operatives to quell the crisis between the neighbouring communities.He said that the command is still gathering information on the extent of damage while assuring that efforts were on to avoid deterioration of the situation and ensure lasting peace.

“Normalcy has been restored in the area and our men are still on ground to ensure safety of life and property. So far, we have recovered three bodies which have been deposited at the morgue.

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